Mr. Diplomacy strikes again...
His point makes me wonder though: how many orchestral string players REALLY join orchestras as a last resort when their solo career doesn't work out?
from Ottawa Citizen:
Zukerman looks forward to another decade
A few months ago, the orchestra director was complaining of a few 'rotten apples' but in a recent interview, he said when the ensemble works well, 'It's such a joy.'
Steven Mazey, The Ottawa Citizen
Published: Saturday, May 27, 2006
National Arts Centre Orchestra director Pinchas Zukerman, who a few months ago complained about some "rotten apples" in the orchestra, now says he could see himself at the NAC for another 10 years, "if it all works well and things continue the way I think it should, musically.
"I'm so satisfied musically, I can't tell you. When this orchestra plays well, it's such a joy," said Mr. Zukerman, who is in contract negotiations.
He was talking to CBC Radio host Eric Friesen in an interview last week on Studio Sparks, the national classical music program that is produced in Ottawa. It was Mr. Zukerman's first interview since he returned May 11 from his five-month break from the NAC.
In December, Mr. Zukerman walked away for an unpaid sabbatical with no explanation, and left orchestra management scrambling to find replacement conductors.
Mr. Zukerman missed three concert programs and was to be away until the end of June. He returned early, in what some musicians say was likely a public relations move after some of the criticism that greeted the departure.
His contract expires next year, and NAC management has said it's hopeful Mr. Zukerman will renew, even though orchestra musicians have become sharply divided over the maestro.
Some have complained he has taken an increasingly bullying approach to getting his way. The NAC has hired two facilitators, who have begun working with both sides to improve the relationship.
When Mr. Friesen suggested Mr. Zukerman's departure was "unusual," Mr. Zukerman replied that his friend, Zubin Mehta, once took a year off as director of the Los Angeles Philharmonic. Mr. Zukerman didn't mention that Mr. Mehta's year-long sabbatical was planned long in advance.
Though he was vague on details, Mr. Zukerman referred to some unhappiness with the process for hiring new members of the orchestra and disagreements he has had with musicians who work with him in auditions. Musicians have a vote, partly to ensure they feel a new player will be a good fit for the ensemble, and that a music director isn't simply hiring friends or former students who might not blend well with the group.
One musician filed a grievance last season about what he said was a harassing and insulting telephone call he received from Mr. Zukerman after the musician (and most other members of the committee) didn't vote in favour of a cellist that Mr. Zukerman and his wife, principal cellist Amanda Forsyth, wanted to hire. The telephone call came before there was to be a final vote.
Musicians cite that incident, and others, to rebut recently retired NAC chairman David Leighton, who suggested in the Citizen recently that much of the controversy around Mr. Zukerman will be resolved with the retirement next month of founding concertmaster Walter Prystawski, after 37 years at the NAC.
When Mr. Prystawski was appointed to the Order of Canada in 2000, Mr. Zukerman told the Citizen, "Walter has the total respect of the orchestra. He's been incredibly good for Ottawa and for music in Canada."
But Mr. Zukerman and Mr. Prystawski have not been close for a few years. Mr. Prystawski says the coolness seemed to start after he and other members of a committee decided a few seasons ago that an interim associate concertmaster that Mr. Zukerman favoured, though a fine violinist, wasn't the right fit for the NACO.
Mr. Leighton offered no direct criticism of Mr. Zukerman or Mr. Prystawski, but told the Citizen he believes the strained relationship between the two men was at the root of the problem that resulted in Mr. Zukerman's disappearance.
However, before his departure, Mr. Zukerman had ensured that he and Mr. Prystawski would not share the stage this season. Mr. Zukerman had arranged to work with potential concertmaster candidates for all of the concerts he was to conduct this season.
"It's a mistake to single out any individual. It was a poor characterization of the situation and unfair to Mr. Prystawski," said former NACO bassoonist Michael Namer, secretary of the Musicians Association of Ottawa-Gatineau.
"If the quote is accurate, it's an unfortunate turn of phrase, because in any workplace or family where there may be problems, it takes more than one individual to create tensions."
Asked by Mr. Friesen what he hoped to achieve with facilitation, Mr. Zukerman started talking instead about his dream of building a new concert hall for the orchestra on Elgin Street.
Though some media organizations treated the comments as if the NAC will be competing for funding with the 925-seat concert hall the Ottawa Chamber Music Society wants to build, NAC spokeswoman Jayne Watson stressed the NAC supports the Chamber Society's project, and that Mr. Zukerman was talking of a long-term dream.
"It's very, very preliminary and was part of a session we had with our management group to discuss the NAC in 25 years' time," Ms. Watson said.
NAC president Peter Herrndorf has said the NAC would regularly rent the chamber society's hall for performances that are better suited to a smaller venue than the NAC's 2,000-seat Southam Hall.
In a comment not likely to go over well with musicians, Mr. Zukerman suggested too many players see their work merely as a way to earn a living.
Mr. Zukerman told Mr. Friesen orchestral musicians "do it as a last resort most of the time," after failing to make it as star soloists, "so it's a job. But its not a job, it shouldn't be ... it should be something you feel that you are able to do because you've been given a talent, an ability to do something that's unique."
While Mr. Zukerman's taxpayer-financed NAC salary is estimated by sources to be in the $1 million range, most NACO players start in the $70,000 range. As anyone who has travelled with the orchestra can attest, musicians work hard at keeping up their playing under gruelling schedules, and many work long hours on tour and at home coaching student musicians.
Mr. Zukerman told Mr. Friesen he wasn't much concerned about criticism.
"I look for popular vote when I perform. I want the popular vote in recognition that I did a good performance."
Mr. Zukerman was scheduled to conduct Mr. Prystawski's farewell concerts June 15 and 16, but has backed out of those performances and has been replaced by founding NACO conductor Mario Bernardi.
Mr. Zukerman's next appearance on the podium is scheduled for July 4.
Ms. Forsyth has been away on sick leave since December, and remains off work.
© The Ottawa Citizen 2006
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